Am I still here?

It’s been ages, hasn’t it? I mean, I used to be prolific, with posts on all kinds of subjects. Lately, though, I’ve just not had the time or inclination. There are reasons.

First, and probably most importantly, I’m very busy with the day job. I have a lot of commissioned model work to get through, and I’ve closed my order book for the next year so I don’t keep piling on the agony. While it’s nice to share my work, I find I’m doing it through social media first and foremost. The same goes for the photography—when I manage to get out and do some.

Second, there are things broken with the WordPress installation of this site. I don’t have the time or, frankly, inclination to spend time sorting them out. While the essential functionality is there, in that I can make posts and you can read the content, automatic sharing of new posts to Twitter and Facebook doesn’t happen. Once, I could access and update the blog from my iPad, but the back office doodad that links to the WP app is fubar, so I have to access via a browser. I’ve better things to do.

Third, the world—as has been stated here before—is beyond insanity. Everything is broken, or being broken, and I simply haven’t the words to rail against the dying of the light! You don’t need me adding to the misery.

So, whither Snaptophobic? I’d like to keep blogging, but I would like a platform that works without me having to break out the toolbox and get my hands dirty. I’ve been considering an alternative system, but they currently only allow dot-com URLs. That’s another expense, unless I can forward from my dot-co-dot-uk… More complexity I don’t need in life. You know, I even considered heading back to Blogger. I know. Worrying, isn’t it.

I apologise for the lack of updates. Perhaps I can find some time to rekindle my interest sufficiently. Perhaps I can find some content you may find interesting. We will see. Bear with me.

British Railways Diesel Electric Co-Co 10001 (redux)

The so-called LMS Twins, a pair of 1,600hp diesel electric locomotives that had been designed and built at the British Railways Locomotive Works at Derby in 1947–48, were proper prototypes. They were both right at the leading edge of railway design of the time, and needed to be thoroughly tested. By 1953, both locos had been updated and modified, and were moved to the Southern Region for more testing. They were joined by their larger cousins, 10201, 10202 and 10203, designed by the former CME of the Southern Railway, OVS Bulleid.

By the end of the 1950s, diesel traction was entering the BR fleet in numbers, and the prototype diesels were moved back to Derby make it easier for maintenance. Relegated to secondary duties, and painted in less flamboyant liveries, all five prototypes were eventually withdrawn and scrapped. 10001 lingered at Derby until 1966. Sadly, none of these locos was considered worthy of adding the national collection. There is an organisation trying to build a recreation 10000, the pioneer loco from 1947.

This commission build was to make a representation of 10001 as it appeared in 1953. Various updates and modifications were made to the Just Like The Real Thing kit, such as revised roof grilles and the air horn brackets this loco featured until 1954. The client requested a light weathering, so I’ve aimed for grubby but cared for. The bogies showed the grime a lot, being finished in an aluminium silver paint, so I’ve concentrated dirt round there.

This is my second 10001 build. The previous one represented the loco in its as-built 1948 condition.

Another model completed

GWR pannier tank locomotive rear three-quarter view

 

GWR pannier tank locomotive front three-quarter view

 

GWR pannier tank locomotive in profile

It was meant to be a relatively quick build, but as with most such things on my workbench it got a bit bogged down at times. The client requested the finish to have the late BR totem, weathering to represent a cared-for but working engine.

The model was built to a scale of 1/43rd (7mm to 1ft) from a Just Like The Real Thing mixed media kit, and is to finescale O Gauge standards. The number and shed plates are from Severn Mill Nameplates. The tools on the bunker are from Laurie Griffin Miniatures, the bucket from DJH Models. The cast crew figures are from various sources.

In case you hadn’t realised, I am a professional model maker, specialising in railway subjects. Although I’m happy to quote for new commissions, I have actually closed my order book until 2019, as I am in the happy position of having lots of work in hand. You can look at some of my work, and find out more about me, on my web site. I’m also on Twitter (@HKModelmaker) and Facebook.

A day—or two—out

When you work for yourself, and your other half is retired, it’s very easy to forget to take holidays. Well, I find it easy to forget. To overcome this problem, we’ve decided to try to take short breaks that happen to coincide with model railway meetings of one kind or another. The precedent has been set by our annual jaunt to Telford for the Gauge O Guild exhibition.

This past weekend we wandered up to the West Midlands. We stayed in Oldbury, in one of those identikit hotels, on a short visit that encompassed the ScaleSeven Group’s AGM at the nearby Warley Model Railway Club’s premises. We travelled up from darn sarf on Friday, had the AGM on Saturday (feeling relaxed and refreshed by not having made the journey on the day), and pottered back home on the Sunday.

With time in hand, we made a slight detour to a local attraction before heading home.

Blakesley Hall, according to Wikipedia, “is a Tudor hall on Blakesley Road in Yardley, Birmingham, England. It is one of the oldest buildings in Birmingham and is a typical example of Tudor architecture with the use of darkened timber and wattle-and-daub infill, with an external lime render which is painted white. The extensive use of close studding and herringbone patterns on all sides of the house make this a home that was designed to show the wealth and status of the owner.”

The house and gardens are run by the Birmingham Museums. Originally a farmhouse set in its own land, the hall is now surrounded by 1930s housing estates. Nevertheless, once you enter the property, it is a tiny oasis of calm in the bustle of a suburban environment.

There is a modern entry block, with the gift shop, toilets and a tea room. On the day we visited, there was a display of various birds of prey. Volunteers were on hand to guide round the house, explaining about the building and its contents, and the histories of its various owners.

If you find yourself in the Birmingham area and have a couple of hours to spare, visit Blakesley Hall. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and you might too.

You can see some more of the images I took on our visit on my Flickr page.

Broken

Although the title could fit me—though it is fair to say I’m not as broken as I thought I might be after recent national and international events—this is about this blog.

I’ve been busy at the workbench, with little time to sit at my computer. After my last entry here, back in March, I made the mistake of updating the main WordPress software and plugins. One of the most useful plugins, though, breaks the site. I simply am unable to access anything, presented with a white blank page. To gain access to the dashboard, I have to log into the nether regions of the control panel, rename or delete a folder, and then the site comes back to life for me.

The problem is the plugin is one of the most useful, and to pile agony further it’s made by WordPress themselves! Jetpack handles things like cross-posting links to my social media, notifying me if there’s been a comment, and lots of other handy things. Only it’s broken. Numerous updates have been and gone, yet it’s still broken. I can’t be the only person affected by this, can I? Sadly, it seems I am. There’s nothing recent on the WP web site itself. I’ve asked a question of the WP gurus, but I don’t expect a straightforward answer, if an answer is forthcoming at all.

So, I’m left with the annoyance that my blog is somewhat broken. I’m hoping this issue will be resolved in due course, but I’m not holding out any hope. Normal service may be resumed at some point.

British Railways Co-Co 10001

I’ve always had a particular fondness for the pioneer British mainline diesels. Actually, let’s put it another way: I’ve always had a particular fondness for one-offs, oddities and prototypes. The latest commission to leave the workbench definitely falls into the latter category.

In 1946, the London, Midland & Scottish Railway—at the time the largest company in the world—was looking to the future. Britain’s railways had effectively been ground into the dust as everyone and everything focused on winning a world war. The board of the railway agreed to invest cash in a speculative test of two diesel electric locomotives. Designs were drawn up in the Derby Works drawing office, and a partnership formed with English Electric, whose experience would furnish the power plant, electrical and control equipment. While diesels were commonplace in the United States, and much of that country’s experience was called upon, a design was created that set the standard for UK mainline diesel locos for many decades to come.

Finished in a striking black and silver livery, the first loco to emerge from the works was 10000. It’s sibling was held back to ensure the LMS could extract as much publicity for its new machines as possible—just as Britain’s railways were nationalised. 10000, in fact, was unveiled to the public and press in early December 1947. After a few test runs and jaunts for the press, the unfinished loco returned to Derby for completion and certain improvements. Meanwhile, in early 1948, 10001 appeared with slightly less fanfare.

Both locos continued to be updated and modified throughout their careers. They worked the Midland Region routes on a variety of trains, both singly and as a pair (termed working “in multiple”, where one driver could operate both units from a single cab). In the early 1950s, both locos were despatched to the Southern Region, where they were again tested on various trains. By the late 1950s, diesel traction was becoming more commonplace and eventually, being prototypes and non-standard, both locomotives were withdrawn. 10000 was scrapped in 1963, while 10001 lingered at the Derby works until 1966.

The model represents 10001 as it was delivered to British Railways in 1948. It has been built, to a scale of 7mm to the foot (1/43rd), using reference materials published by Wild Swan and a kit from Just Like The Real Thing. A cosmetic diesel engine has been installed, and the cabs have been detailed and painted as accurately as possible. Various other details have been added to make this model as true to the original as I could make it, though there have been some inevitable compromises made along the way. The model was commissioned by a client to match with his existing model of 10000. The latter model has also been remotored and given updated electronics, and both models have been tested together as a pair.

Oddly, I have another model of 10001 under construction. This time, it’s as the loco appeared in 1953, so there will be some subtle external differences, although still in the striking black and silver livery.

On a personal note, you will have noticed my blogging has been quiet of late. The state of the world, you’d think, would give me plenty to rant about. You would be correct, of course, but for the sake of my mental and physical health I am trying my best to keep the world at arm’s length. You should hear what I bellow at the television “news”, mind you! I also have had one or two issues with the WordPress installation, and I may need to think about extending my allocated server space. With plenty of other things on my plate, I’m afraid this blog has been rather neglected.

I am a professional modelmaker. I take commissions for, in the main, 7mm scale model railway subjects. I have a full order book for the rest of 2017, and I’m already taking commissions for 2018. You can see some examples of my work on my web site, and if you like you can follow my antics on that Facebook thing.

The Things You Find

I periodically attempt a tidying up and clearing out session. In spite of our modern digital world, “important” paperwork just seems to multiply. I am the worst kind of person to make decisions about what can safely be discarded, and so the piles grow.

While on one of my periodical sifting sessions, I uncovered some funny things I had kept for some reason. Funny, in this case, means amusing.

First was a parody of the small print you sometimes find at the bottom of corporate emails.


This email is intended for the use of the individual addressee(s) named above and may contain information that is confidential, privileged or unsuitable for overly sensitive persons of low self-esteem, no sense of humour or irrational religious beliefs.

If you are not the intended recipient, any dissemination, distribution or copying of this email is not authorised (either explicitly or implicitly) and constitutes an irritating social faux pas.

Unless the word absquatulation has been used in its correct context somewhere other than this warning, it does not have any legal or grammatical use and may be ignored.

No animals were harmed in the transmission of this email, although the yorkie next door is living on borrowed time, let me tell you.

Those of you with an overwhelming fear of the unknown will be gratified to learn that there is no hidden message revealed by reading this warning backwards, so just ignore that alert notice from Microsoft. However, by pouring a complete circle of salt around yourself and your computer or handheld device you can ensure no harm befalls you or your pets.

If you have received this email in error, please place it in a warm oven for 40 minutes and add some nutmeg and egg whites. Whisk briefly and let it stand for two hours before icing.


When I mention the foregoing paper had a time stamp of April 2000 on it, you will begin to realise the extent of my paper hoarding powers!

Next, some ways to maintain a healthy level of insanity—probably more relevant today, considering the way our world seems to be heading.


  1. At lunchtime, sit in your parked car with sunglasses on and all the hairdryer at passing cars. See if they slowdown.
  2. Page yourself over the intercom. Don’t disguise your voice.
  3. Every time someone asks you to do something, ask if they want fries with that.
  4. Put your garbage can on your desk and label it “IN”.
  5. Put the caffeine in the coffee maker for three weeks. Once everyone has got over the caffeine addiction switch to espresso.
  6. Finish all your sentences with “in accordance with the prophecy”.
  7. Dont use any punctuation
  8. As often as possible, skip rather than walk.
  9. Ask people what sex they are. Laugh hysterically after they answer.
  10. Specify that your drive-through order is “to go”.
  11. Sing along at the opera.
  12. Go to a poetry recital and ask why the poems don’t rhyme.
  13. Put mosquito netting around your work area and play tropical sounds all day.
  14. Five days in advance, tell your friends you can’t attend the party because you’re not in the mood.
  15. Have your co-workers address you by your wrestling name—rockhard.
  16. When the money comes out of the ATM scream “I won! I won!”.
  17. When leaving the zoo, start running towards the car park yelling “Run for your lives, they’re loose!”.
  18. Tell your children over dinner, “Due to the economy, we are going to have to let one of you go”.

I hope you enjoyed those. I don’t recall exactly where they came from, especially after all these years, so feel free to plagiarise them to your heart’s content.

In other news, after a slightly rocky upgrade of this blog software earlier, which has left some of the plugins in a precarious situation, I am starting to look at alternatives to WordPress. The WordPress iOS app is also a pile of doodah, too. I can work locally, but it always seems to fail to connect to the server and save the work. This blog was written on the iThing, but it didn’t appear in the drafts on the main computer when logged in. So, I had to cut and paste across a couple of apps just to get here.

Anyway, while I investigate and ponder changes, it’s probably going to be business as usual here until I can set things up—assuming I manage to without too many tears!

2016 – a year in review

IMG_0180

This review of my year is somewhat coarse and uncouth. I apologise if any of the following language causes offence. I’ve tried to be creative with it rather than write what I really think! It’s just, well, it’s just been one of those years, hasn’t it?

I usually try to find a suitable header image for these reviews. The best idea I came up with was an image of 2016 being flushed down a toilet, just as a big fat hairy arse was pooping 2017 into it. It sort of sums up my feelings. Yes, this year has been a bit of stinker to say the least. 2017, though, is set to be a real honker. An “I’d leave that about 20 minutes before you go in” sort of year. That’s why I’ve put a picture of Billy-puss there instead.

So, 2016. What have you got to say for yourself?

The World

It’s very easy to be a bit of a grump about the state of things, I think. I keep looking for something positive. I’m sure there are one or two diamond chips lurking in the overall shower of shit that was 2016, but I’m buggered if I can spot them.

The new year set the trend with the somewhat unexpected death of David Bowie in January. It seemed to go downhill from there, frankly. When you come to look at it calmly, though, the quantity of celebrity deaths in 2016 isn’t really all that much different to previous years. It just seems worse, I think, because there’s a cohort of actors, musicians and so on, that has reached that kind of age where they will tend to drop of the perch. It becomes more acute when you’ve lived with these people as part of your life, even if only vicariously or tangentially. Their work, of course, lives on.

The Middle East remains an utter mess. As I type this, a final act in Syria is potentially beginning, but I don’t wish to comment in depth. Bombings and shootings in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and whatever you do don’t mention Yemen… No one source of “news” can give a clear picture of the maelstrom, and picking shreds of truth from the endless frothing onslaught is all but impossible. At every turn, claim and counterclaim, and everyone is currently blaming the Russians. Odd, that, since last year it was the Chinese.

We turn to the United States of America… Actually, no, let’s not. They’ve made their bed. We’d have suffered whichever side had claimed the presidency, and we’ve got enough of a pickle of our own to sort out.

The environment seems to be collapsing faster than Sterling against the US dollar. Despite the evidence before their very eyes, unbelievers still insist there is no such thing as anthropogenic global warming. I’ve given up. We might just as well give up and let it all crash and burn. Perhaps then they’ll listen, when it’s all too late to do anything. Actually, I think we passed that point about twenty years back, just when we were beginning to realise something was badly amiss. It’s your grandchildren I feel sorry for. I don’t have any kids, so I don’t waste any time worrying about their non-existent futures.

Sheesh! Is there a sane country left on this planet‽ Would you be surprised if I told you I was at the point of applying to emigrate to Iceland? Seriously. The only problem is I wouldn’t have a job there, Best Beloved wouldn’t like the climate, and working as a modelmaker in an overseas territory when my client base is mostly here in the UK would be a bit silly. Oh well, another door slams, as they say. Chalk up another opportunity I failed to grab as it sailed by. The story of my life.

Blighty

Sodding Brexit. Seriously, sod it and all who sail in her. What a fiasco. Even if we end up not leaving the EU—and some polls seem to indicate a sufficient number of leave voters have since changed their minds, such that it could swing that way—something deeply fundamental at the core of the United Kingdom has been utterly broken. Brexit, apparently, means Brexit, whatever the hell that word salad is supposed to mean. Possibly with red, white and blue, but it means Brexit. That’s the level of foresight and planning our inglorious leaders have on the matter. I find it hard to look at anyone these days and trust them with anything. What must it be like for other EU nationals living here, let alone people with deeper skin tones? You know who I blame for it?

The sodding Tories, and especially that moon-faced arse-gibbon David Cameron. Frightened by the UKIP tendency, he called the referendum, failed to make it binding as he fully expected the Remain campaign would win it with ease, then flounced off to his millions when it all went tits up. Arrogant shit, leaving the rest of us in the same. If we could find him, he should be dragged back and his nose rubbed in the mess he’s made!

After a couple of nights of the long knives, Theresa May reached the top of the Conservative Party greasy pole. What’s rather worrying is she’s shown little aptitude for the job, which isn’t altogether surprising as she wasn’t exactly employee of the month in her previous one. I don’t suppose it’ll be long before we get to choose more self-aggrandising wastes of oxygen and space to occupy the crumbling ruin of the Palace of Westminster. The Labour Party weren’t any better, either. Bunch of tossers. A leader is elected with a massive popular mandate, but the MPs don’t like him so they try to run another leadership campaign to oust him. The original leader is returned with an even larger mandate. What the actual blue-faced f@c# did they expect would happen‽ Honestly, what a bunch of moronic no-hopers. Meanwhile, the Tories run rampant, tearing the country to shreds with no real opposition. You couldn’t make this up.

Having decided by the slimmest of margins, of those that actually bothered to vote in the damned EU referendum that is, that the “will of the people” was we should leave the European Union, Mrs May placed Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis in charge. The Three Stooges, only with less intelligence and foresight. God help us all. Oh, I forgot, there is no god. Sorry. Looks like we are on our own.

That other bad smell, Nigel Farage (that’s pronounced as “farridge” round here), simply won’t go away. Having resigned from the Kippers’ leadership, he found himself back in it again almost immediately when the woman elected to run things found white middle-aged blokes don’t like women telling them what to do. Shades of General Election 2015. Now he’s found a properly loony white middle-aged bloke to run things, Farage is off again. Mr Froggy-Would-A-Wooing-Go has recently been crawling up the tailpipe of the Orange One in Trumpland. I wish he’d crawl up there and stay, and good riddance. I wish to no longer see his leering visage on my television screen, thank you.

What a nasty, vicious, small-minded place this once great country has become. Perhaps it’s always been that way, but the pretty wrapping paper covered it up. Who knows. Whatever, it’s a darker place now than it was this time last year, and it was no Blackpool illuminations back then either.

We had some pretty good weather during the summer, so that was nice. The autumn was pretty spectacular, too. I failed to get out my camera gear, though. Another positive note was the release of a new ELO album. The summer was only marred by the old biddie in Buck House turning 90. Woo-bloody-hoo! Oh, and the Rio Olympics. To be fair, Team GB did quite well. Good luck to ’em.

Domestic

At home it’s been a year of ups and downs. On my work front, it’s like it’s never ending. I closed my order book for 2017, and will tentatively take on new commissions for 2018 some time during next year. It’s feels good to be in demand, but my pace of work is painfully slow at times. Still, the bank balance is well into the black, which is a nice place to be.

We said goodbye to our old Sophie-puss in May. Her health had been on a downturn for a while, but bearing in mind she was close to 20 years old, she didn’t do too badly. We went off to be chosen again as soon as we could, and Billy-puss has made himself properly at home now. It’s almost like he was meant to be here.

Best Beloved’s health has been up, down, up, and sideways. He’s not too bad, overall, considering what’s wrong with him. As I type this review, we’re both in the last stages of recovering from a really nasty bout of some cold virus or other. I have never felt so ill. It killed appetites, meaning we’ve been missing out on meals, leading to overall weakness. Today is the first day we’ve felt almost human. I don’t want another dose of that, thank you very much indeed.

In other news, we had a new back door and window fitted. We’d been planning to do that for about a decade. We then lashed out on a new air source heat pump heating system. Theoretically, it will save us money on our utility bills. While it’s not perfect, and doesn’t really heat the whole house floor area as one would expect, it’s doing okay and we look to be on track to make some savings as predicted. Our gas consumption is now down to a tiny amount, as we still need to make hot water for washing and so on, but we’re looking at alternatives to that. Our energy supplier recently announced that they sourced all their electricity from renewable and low carbon sources, which is nice, and our monthly payments have been reduced based on our usage. I call that winning.

So we end the year on a generally positive personal note. I know there is still a lot of good out there, and there’s still a lot of beauty in the world, but you have to admit it’s becoming pretty hard to put on a happy face for any length of time. Let me end my drivel by wishing you and your families the very best compliments of the season, and let us hope that 2017 turns out to be not as bad as it looks like it might be. See you in the new year!

Backwards

I started at primary school in 1969. All the weights and measures taught to me were metric. Yet I had to grow up in a world where some things were being measured using a logical system, and others by some system originally set out by the Anglo-Saxons. Britain had decided to metricate in 1966 yet why, nearly half a century on, are we still messing with our children’s brains by mixing measurement systems?

The EU referendum was apparently about “taking back control”. From what or whom was never really explained. We buy our beer and milk in pints (take a look at a milk container, and notice the bizarre measure in metric). Jam jars are still half a pound, but labelled as 454g. Two pounds of sugar is really a kilogram, but it’s close enough the unreconstructed imperialists don’t moan about it—probably because they are getting a quarter pound extra!

Has the EU forced us to drive in the right? Have we been forced to change all our road signs to show metric? I wish they had, but that’s another story. (NEWSFLASH! Our roads, railways, airports, docks and even homes have been constructed using metric weights and measures since at least the 1960s. Those countdown markers to motorway exit slips? They’re set at 100 metre intervals. SOS phones were always 1000 metres apart. We live in a world measured by the metric system whether we like it or not.)

Go to a DIY emporium and buy some timber. It’s measured in metric, but still effectively imperial. Chipboard comes in sheets 1220mm by 607mm, because that’s all but 4 ft by 2ft in old money. A 1.8m length of two-by-one is a 6ft length of 50x25mm… there I go again!

We were eventually persuaded to let diesel and petrol be dispensed by the litre. But let’s not forget those who insist that loose vegetables should be sold by the pound.

The thing is, even after all these years, I get confused by imperial measures. Ask me how many ounces to the pound, or pounds to the stone and I’m lost. Is it 12 or 14 pounds to the stone? Twenty ounces to the pound? Ack! I get inches, feet and yards, but how many feet or yards in a mile? How big is an acre? Don’t get me started on thousandths of an inch, gallons or fluid ounces either. You may as well ask me to weigh something using a sperm whale. By contrast, metric is logical. It uses base 10, and things divide up easily. The smallest practical measure of length is the millimetre; a thousand make a metre, and a thousand metres make a kilometre. The same with weights and volumes: 1000 grammes is a kilogramme, a thousand kilogrammes is tonne; a thousand millilitres make a litre.

The only other country that insists on sticking with imperial measures is the United States. Like us, they too appear to have voted to head back to the 1950s. In reality, we’ve been metric for decades—indeed, the metric system is an international standard used by every scientist out there, even in the good ol’ U S of A—but we continue to cling to imperial measures for some unfathomable reason. A thin veneer of something hiding a reality with which some people seem unable to come to terms. Brexit in a nutshell.

The Kipper House of Lies | Robininces Blog

This struck me when I read it.

We share so much, but we seem to understand each other less and less.

Source: The Kipper House of Lies | Robininces Blog

Read it in context of the whole post, too. Hopefully, you will agree as well. It’s something I have come to realise about the whole social media and, indeed, world wide web experiment. The more information freely available to everyone the less everyone seeks out the information that enriches and educates them. Which is kind of sad, when you think about it.